Page:Sawdust & Spangles.djvu/102

This page has been validated.
78
SAWDUST AND SPANGLES

would close in behind the wheels like the Red Sea.

So vividly did this oft-repeated picture impress me that it is as clearly before me now as it was forty years ago. Sometimes, when an elephant was not available, the wagons would be literally pulled apart, and when the break came the horses would fall sprawling into the mire, only their heads visible above the surface of the mud.

But the poor horses were not the only sufferers from bad roads. The men came in for their share. Very distinctly do I remember the night when we were about to cross a slough. Some of us were dozing in our saddles, others sleeping soundly on the tops of the wagons which carried the tents. Suddenly the shout was heard from the man in the lead, "Help, there, boys! I'm going down in the quicksands! Throw out a line, lively!"

We knew the voice. It belonged to Hickey, the wagon boss, who was a favorite with the men. Instantly the fellows tumbled from the wagons and rushed forward. The torches showed Hickey sunk to his armpits. A man of ready wit and action threw a rope and the sinking man caught it and passed the noose over his head and under his arms, knotting it